The Wisconsin men's basketball team (9-2) closed out its non-conference schedule on a positive note with their 75-49 victory over the College of Charleston (9-2) on Saturday.
Things did not come with ease during the initial minutes for Wisconsin. The Badgers went 0 for 6 until junior forward Mike Wilkinson got the offense going with his three-point shot off of a dish from sophomore forward Andreas Helmigk at the 16 minutes, 46 seconds mark. Once the lid was lifted, the Badgers sparred with the Cougars until the 10 minutes, 15 seconds mark. Clinging to a 17-14 lead, Wisconsin went on a 20-6 run to close out the first half and prevent the Cougars from clawing back into the game.
During the run, the Badgers received most of their points from Wilkinson and junior guard Devin Harris. Both contributed nine points and worked together in producing a note-worthy one-handed fast break dunk by Harris off of a steal from Wilkinson.
Multiple factors contributed to the demise of the Cougars. The team shot a poor 38 percent from the field and only knocked down 7 of 27 attempts in the first half. The final tally of 49 points was their lowest this season and a far cry from their season average of 74.5 points per game.
Another factor that contributed to the Wisconsin domination was the minimal playing time of the Cougars' big man, senior Mike Benton. He received two quick fouls in the first half, which put him in the game for only four of the first 20 minutes. Before heading to the bench, however, he swatted away two shots.
Benton saw more action during the second half. During his 16 minutes he deflected another three shots, went 7-for-8 from the charity stripe and 2-for-2 from the field, leading the Cougars' with 11 points.
"I thought (Mike) Benton's two quick fouls hurt us and I thought they set the tone with their offense scoring easily around the bucket," College of Charleston coach Tom Herrion said. "(Benton's) a guy that cleans a lot of that stuff up, usually, for us."
Wisconsin's defense also did a good job of preventing College of Charleston from getting back into the game. Besides halting the opponent's scoring, it created opportunities for the Badgers.
"It really starts with our defense and it really picked us up today," Wilkinson said. "We got some steals we got some fast break opportunities…those are definitely things we feed off of and if our defense can give us some easy points it just makes it easier for us."
Though Benton was out of the picture for a portion of the game, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan knew that the Cougars would still bring the same intensity without him. Rather than playing on the inside, the defense now had to focus on containing senior forward Thomas Mobley and junior guard Stanley Jackson from hitting their outside shots.
"Get high on them, get up on them," Ryan said, when asked what the key was to containing the duo, which went 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. "The one time we played Mobley low was the only three he made; our hands weren't up…And the other guy was guarded by Wilkinson a lot, so he's a bigger guy to shoot over. We made it a little bit tougher for them to get good looks at the rim. I thought our guys did a good job of that."
Every player that suited up for the Badgers saw playing time on Saturday; One player who did not suit up was sophomore forward Alando Tucker. After missing the first five games of the season with a broken right foot, Tucker has now missed two consecutive games after injuring the same foot against Ohio.
Though Tucker was out, Wisconsin had no trouble on the offensive side. Harris led the way with 19 points despite being shaky a shaky 4-for-11 at the free throw line. Wilkinson added 15 points and eight boards while Morley pitched in 18 points and seven boards.
After going 9-2 in non-conference games, the Badgers will open up their Big Ten season at home on Tuesday against Indiana at 6 p.m.